Sustainability set to grow in importance

The NTUC FairPrice outlet at Nex mall in Serangoon on Oct 7, 2015.
The NTUC FairPrice outlet at Nex mall in Serangoon on Oct 7, 2015. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

I was surprised to read that Singaporeans are not as willing to pay more for environmentally sustainable products and services as our neighbours ("S'pore not as keen on buying green as neighbours"; last Saturday).

A country with one of the highest standards of living in Asia and with an educated population would have been expected to set an example for the rest of the region.

Consumers are becoming increasingly committed to purchasing products and services that have a less degrading impact on the environment and human health.

Companies, therefore, need to be aware of these consumer motivations and consider how they position their green products and services in the marketplace, as it will affect their success.

They should also explain their green programmes and related information on their websites, to best communicate with and create awareness among customers.

Sustainability should not be just a marketing tool; it should be built into a company's operations.

While consumers look for tangible, personal benefits in sustainable products and services, businesses do not appear to be doing enough to address sustainability challenges in as much as consumers are not sufficiently knowledgeable about environmental issues.

As a result of this disconnect, only a quarter of Singaporeans surveyed considered sustainability in their purchasing decisions.

People know more about products and companies than ever before.

To be meaningful today, brands must, therefore, create products and services that tangibly make a difference to people's lives and improve health, society and the environment, while fulfilling sustainable environmental criteria.

Sustainability should not be just a marketing tool; it should be built into a company's operations.

To do so, companies have to fundamentally change the way they think about lowering costs; initial investments made in more expensive materials and methods will lead to greater savings and will increase the efficiency of the system as a whole.

It is to be expected that Singaporeans will spend more money on green purchases if they could be guaranteed of ethical and responsible manufacturing practices.

Sustainability is here to stay and will gain more importance in the future, as people accept that it is better for the environment and for their health.

V. Subramaniam (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2015, with the headline 'Sustainability set to grow in importance'. Print Edition | Subscribe